Despite our vow to stop writing about ebooks this weeks, we were sucked back in against our normally strong will. Publisher’s Weekly breathlessly reports on the unveiling of Sony’s new-to-the-U.S.-market ebook reader. Despite yesterday’s story about ebook sales increasing, PW sees the new device as a beacon of hope because
A similar device introduced into the Japanese market last year was a hit, giving Sony executives hope that despite the failure of e-books to catch on in the U.S., a better reader may encourage consumers to give e-books a second look.
Reviews of the Librie device (which was either a bit hit or not, depending on your news source — ours conflicted), made available last year to the Japanese market, were generally positive. The technology developed by E-Ink came as close as is digitally possible to analog books, creating a comfortable, energy efficient reading experience. In fact, the biggest problem with the Librie was, as noted by Boing Boing, the digital rights management (DRM) system used by Sony. It took the “friend” out of “user friendly”.
Since those reviews, Business Week notes that Sony has gotten the message. The U.S. version will allow users to access both PDF files and the proprietary Sony file system. This will be a boon for independent ebook publishers.
And rather than requiring users to transfer data onto the device with Sony’s proprietary “memory stick,” the reader also will be able to connect via a computer’s USB port and accept standard SD memory cards already found in many digital devices.
Okay, positive steps. Very positive. Sony has already entered into agreements with major publishers — it appears the price of the ebooks will rival that of mass market paperbacks (if we’re reading BW article correctly, what is being licensed are the titles already in the mass market market, not those in hardcover-only release; corrections is we’re wrong are appreciated). The device, of course, will cost a lot, several hundred dollars. This could prove to be a major barrier for readers. Sure, we want it easy and convenient — as we’ve previously discussed, the positive implications this has for college students is worth the price of admission — but an expensive device that only displays documents?
Well, naturally, we have a suggestion for Sony: multi-tasking. People love to multi-task. Make the device more flexible, usable. Maybe think Bluetooth. We hear the kids love Bluetooth. And above all, do not think proprietary. We think we’re making our meaning clear here.
- Sony Intros Dedicated e-Book Reader
- Sony’s Librie e-book reader: great display, awful DRM
- Curling Up With a Good E-Book: Is the iPod of e-readers at hand? Previous models haven’t caught the public’s fancy, but some major publishers seem to think Sony is about to change that
Further discussion, more links, and an indication that the device plays MP3s: